Stabilization of the human cytomegalovirus UL136p33 reactivation determinant overcomes the requirement for UL135 for replication in hematopoietic cells

Melissa A. Moy, Donna Collins-McMillen, Lindsey Crawford, Christopher Parkins, Sebastian Zeltzer, Katie Caviness, Syed Shujaat Ali Zaidi, Patrizia Caposio, Felicia Goodrum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a beta herpesvirus that persists indefinitelyin the human host through a latent infection. The polycistronic UL133-UL138 gene locus of HCMV encodes genes regulating latency and reactivation. While UL138 is pro-latency, restricting virus replication in CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs),UL135 overcomes this restriction and is required for reactivation. By contrast, UL136 is expressed with later kinetics and encodes multiple proteins with differentialroles in latency and reactivation. Like UL135, the largest UL136 isoform, UL136p33, is required for reactivation from latency in HPCs; viruses failing to express either protein are unresponsive to reactivation stimuli. Furthermore, UL136p33 is unstable, and its instability is important for the establishment of latency, and sufficientaccumulation of UL136p33 is a checkpoint for reactivation. We hypothesized that stabilizing UL136p33 might overcome the requirement of UL135 for replication. We generated recombinant viruses lacking UL135 that expressed a stabilized variant of UL136p33. Stabilizing UL136p33 did not impact the replication of the UL135 mutant virus in fibroblasts.However, in the context of infection in HPCs, stabilization of UL136p33 strikingly compensated for the loss of UL135, resulting in increased replication in CD34+ HPCs and in humanized NOD-scid IL2Rγcnull (huNSG) mice. This findingsuggests that while UL135 is essential for replication in HPCs, it functions largely at steps preceding the accumulation of UL136p33, and that stabilized expression of UL136p33 largely overcomes the requirement for UL135. Taken together, our genetic evidence indicates an epistatic relationship between UL136p33 and UL135, whereby UL135 may initiate events early in reactivation that drive the accumulation of UL136p33 to a threshold required for productive reactivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • UL135
  • UL136
  • cytomegalovirus
  • herpesvirus
  • latency
  • reactivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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